Greece, as a nation, has a history of squabbles and disorganization but on the other hand the Parthenon is still standing despite millennia and bombardments and acid rain, so when it became apparent that my very Greek builder had delayed getting his building permits for my new front porch till the last imaginable minute, resulting in a display of ruffled feathers and mammalian brinkmanship at the County offices, I chalked it up to business as usual. It held up the digging of foundations for a day, but then the work crew had bushes to murder and a door to hang.
The door is still sort of a work in progress actually. It replaces the one that fell off its hinges at the top of my cellar stair case a few years ago, and at various times, when bureaucracy or lack of a part holds up the work, they come in and plane off the underside or drill it for the lockset or something.
The Great God Pan (as I have come to think of the building foreman, Panos) ended up making four or maybe five trips to the County building. First they discovered that he did not have the actual physical paper document that was the first thing given to me when I started applying for permits about seventeen years ago. This contained no information that isn’t in the County’s computers, but no, he needed that exact piece of paper. I gave it to him. Then they wanted to know things like, are you going to use galvanized or non-galvanized screws? He had to recruit his master carpenter (a laconic Salvadoran named Dino, who uses a circular saw like Durer used a paintbrush) to render a half dozen drawings of joists and things.
During this 24 hour period they could at least tear things down. It was simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating to watch them pull off wood that has been rotting serenely for the last several years and screens that were by that time hanging in tatters. Marlo, the Young Grasshopper of the work team, rolled up his sleeves and grabbed a long-handled maul to break brick that’s stood for sixty years. He and Dino traded off all afternoon working the hammer and a power drill. It makes my deadlifting and so on look like croquet.
In the end they had to rent a gigantic electric jackhammer which Panos ferried in Thursday morning, trading off with Marlo until they had a feel for how long it would take. “Just think,” he said, “if this were long ago, you would have only a pick and I would have a whip.” I think these guys have been working together for a while.
Eventually they drilled, with horrid attendant aromas and noises, into the cinderblock of my front wall and constructed a floor frame
but had to wait for a County inspector to come and pass the depth of the foundation holes and the soundness of the fasteners.
He appeared yesterday morning. I opened the door blearily to greet him. “Good morning, sir,” he said. I don’t know how reassuring that was in the context of a visual inspection of my building project but I’ve been getting sirred for years; something about the tenor voice and the biceps. He caught his mistake, apologized and said “I’m just here to look at holes.” I can’t remember the last time I passed up such an obvious straight line.
Today they framed the roof of the structure — I was going to take a picture, but eventually you have to, like, work so you can keep putting money in the bank to write checks to the Great God Pan. It is nothing to what these guys are doing though. They are prancing around on my roof and it’s ninety degrees out there.
If anyone ever uses the phrase “common laborer” in your presence, punch him in the face.